People First


People First of Utah is part of a nationwide advocacy effort to support people with disabilities to advocate for the same basic rights as all citizens have. Population: Adults with disabilities age 18 and over

People First Advocacy Organization

People First is a group of people working together to help each other take charge of their own lives. This is being done in local areas throughout Utah. People gather and hold meetings to learn how to make decisions and choices in life in order for them to be more independent. They also learn about rights and responsibilities. People First is about people supporting each other so they gain confidence to speak out about what they believe in. It promotes Inclusion, Freedom and Respect for all.

Members of People First believe that people with disabilities should be treated as equals. They should be given the right to make the same decisions and the same choices and have the same responsibilities as anyone else. They believe that people should be allowed to make new friends and renew old friendships and be as independent as they are able. They should be able to live with whom and where they like to live, and to work where they want to work. People First believes that everyone should be included in society and not be singled out as being different. People should be referred to as a person first before the disability label that describes what the person has or does not have.

People First members are 18 years and older. Local groups meet monthly and provide opportunities for education, to share stories and voice their opinions and to let their voices be heard. And most importantly to meet others and have fun!

People First is a great opportunity for transition-aged students to meet and get to know adult mentors that can support them as they transition into the adult world of work and responsibilities. People First focuses on the rights and responsibilities of ALL citizens and supports members to be good citizens and to contribute to their community.

For information and to locate an active People First group in your area, please call the Utah Developmental Disabilities Council at 801-533-3965 or 800-333-8824 and ask to talk with a People First Trainer.

People First Language

Language is power. Our words have the power to inspire, motivate, and uplift people. They also have the power to hurt, isolate and oppress individuals or entire segments of society. Often times, throughout our history, it has become necessary to change our language and the way in which we refer to individuals and groups to avoid further oppressing those members of society. The time has come to reshape our language once again so that we may refer to people with disabilities and the disability community in a respectful and inclusive manner. Choosing to Use People First Language Generally, in choosing words about people with disabilities, the guiding principle is to refer to the person first, not the disability. In place of saying "the disabled," it is preferable to say "people with disabilities." This way, the emphasis is placed on the person, not the disability. It is only important to refer to the person?s disability if it is relevant to the conversation or situation. Disability should not be the primary, defining characteristic of an individual but merely one aspect of the whole person. People who have disabilities are present in every aspect of society. They are:

  • moms and dads
  • sons and daughters
  • employees and employers
  • scientists (Stephen Hawking)
  • friends and neighbors
  • movie stars (Marlee Matlin)
  • students and teachers
  • Most importantly, they are people first.

Examples of People First Language

Many labels used for disabilities in our society have negative connotations or are misleading. Using labels contributes to negative stereotypes and devalues the person they attempt to describe. Avoid them when speaking to, or about, persons with disabilities. The following terms should be avoided when speaking to or about people with disabilities:

  • invalid
  • wheelchair-bound
  • mongoloid
  • deaf and dumb
  • defective
  • mute
  • victim
  • crippled
  • special person
  • suffers from
  • handicapped
  • stricken with
  • a patient
  • retarded
  • afflicted with
  • handicapped

Making the Change to People First Language

  • "handicapped" or "disabled" should be replaced with "people with disabilities"
  • "the handicapped" or "the disabled" should be replaced with "people who have disabilities"
  • "he/she is wheelchair bound" or "he/she is confined to a wheelchair" should be replaced with "he/she uses a wheelchair"
  • "he/she has a birth defect" should be replaced with "he/she has a congenital disability"
  • "handicapped" in reference to parking, bathrooms, rooms etc. should be replaced with "accessible"
  • "he/she is retarded or MR" should be replaced with "he/she has a cognitive disability or mental retardation"

General Guidelines for Talking about Disability:

  • Do not refer to a person's disability unless it is relevant to the conversation.
  • Use the word "disability" rather than "handicap" to refer to a person?s disability. Never use "cripple/crippled" in any reference to a disability.
  • When referring to a person?s disability, use "People First Language."
  • Avoid referring to people with disabilities as "the disabled, the blind, the epileptics, the retarded." Descriptive terms should be used as adjectives, not as nouns.
  • Avoid negative or sensational descriptions of a person?s disability. Don?t say "suffers from, a victim of, or afflicted with." These portrayals elicit unwanted sympathy, or worse, pity toward individuals with disabilities. Respect and acceptance is what people with disabilities prefer.
  • Don't use "normal" or "able-bodied" to describe people who do not have disabilities. It is better to say "people without disabilities," if necessary to make comparisons.

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